Caves found with ‘sweater climate’ could be ideal home for future lunar colonists, study finds

Lunar wells and caves could provide future human explorers with a safe haven on the Moon thanks to its Earth-like temperatures, a group of scientists has found.

A team led by planetary scientists from UCLA has discovered shaded areas within pits on the Moon’s surface that always hover around a comfortable 17°C – meaning future astronauts may have 99 problems, but staying cold won’t be one.

These craters, and the caves they can lead to, would make base camps safer and thermally more stable for lunar exploration and long-term habitation than the rest of the Moon’s surface, which heats up to 260 degrees (126.6°C). °C). during the day and drops to 280 degrees below zero at night (-173.3°C).

First discovered in 2009, about 16 of the more than 200 lunar shafts found are likely collapsed lava tubes, according to the study’s lead author Tyler Horvath, a doctoral student in planetary science at UCLA.

“We could establish a long-term presence on the Moon sooner than is possible,” Horvath said, adding that two of the most prominent craters have visible ridges that clearly lead to some sort of cave or void, and there is strong evidence that the ridge on the other it can also lead to a large cave.

Also found on Earth, lava tubes form when molten lava flows under a field of cooled lava or a crust forms over a river of lava, leaving a long hollow tunnel.

When a lava tube collapses, it opens a pit that can lead to the rest of the cave-like tube.

Where it is almost always ‘climate weather’

Using processed images from the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment – a thermal camera on NASA’s robotic Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – Horvath and his team were able to find that the temperature inside the wells was almost always “sweater weather”.

The research team focused on a roughly cylindrical depression 100 meters deep about the length and breadth of a football field in an area of ​​the moon known as “Mare Tranquillitatis”, and used computer modeling to analyze the rock’s thermal properties. and moon dust to measure well temperatures over a period of time.

They believe the shaded overhang is responsible for the constant temperature, limiting how hot things get during the day and preventing heat from radiating out at night.

Meanwhile, the sunburned part of the crater floor reaches daytime temperatures close to 300 degrees (148.8°C), about 40 degrees hotter than the Moon’s surface.

“Because the Tranquillitatis well is the closest to the lunar equator, the floor lit at noon is probably the hottest place on the entire Moon,” Horvath said.

Copyright: NASA - GSFC - Arizona State University

The researchers found that the shaded areas of a moonwell (pictured above) remain consistently cool during the day and night. It likely leads to a similarly tempered lava cave. – Copyright: NASA – GSFC – Arizona State University

back to the caves

A day on the Moon lasts for nearly 15 Earth days, during which the surface is constantly bombarded by sunlight and is often hot enough to boil water. the report readswhile the unimaginably cold nights also last for about 15 Earth days.

Building bases in the shaded parts of these lunar craters could allow scientists to focus on other challenges, such as growing food, gathering resources for experiments, expanding the base and, above all, providing oxygen for astronauts.

The caves would also offer some protection from cosmic rays, solar radiation, and micrometeorites.

“Humans evolved by living in caves, and to caves we may return when we live on the Moon,” said study co-author David Paige, who leads the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment.

However, inventing heating and cooling equipment that can operate in these conditions and produce enough energy to power them nonstop could be an insurmountable barrier to lunar habitation. Solar power — NASA’s most common form of power generation — doesn’t work at night.

NASA said it currently has no plans to establish an exploration base camp on the Moon.

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